Elizabeth Hamilton: Wife of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton

Elizabeth Hamilton Wife of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton was born on August 9, 1757, in Albany, New York. She was the wife of Alexander Hamilton, American Founding Father and the 1st U.S Secretary of the Treasury. She was present at such historic moments as when Hamilton began to write The Federalist and composed his defense of a national bank.

The second daughter of Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler and Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler and schooled at home, she was introduced to Alexander Hamilton at George Washington’s headquarters and they married on December 14, 1780. She became close friends with Martha Washington.

"I meet you in every dream," Hamilton wrote in one of his swooning letters, "and when I wake I cannot close my eyes for ruminating on your sweetness." In a letter to a fellow aide he sounded more dispassionate: "Though not a genius, she has good sense enough to be agreeable, and though not a beauty, she has fine black eyes, is rather handsome, and has every other requisite of the exterior to make a lover happy."

They spent many months apart. During one such absence, in the summer of 1791, Hamilton began an affair with Maria Reynolds that, when publicly revealed six years later, exposed Elizabeth to a humiliation augmented both by Hamilton's insistence on airing the adultery's most lurid details and a hostile press that asked, "Art thou a wife? See him, whom thou has chosen for the partner of this life, lolling in the lap of a harlot!!"

Elizabeth helped Alexander write speeches (including Washington’s Farewell Address), correspond with heads of state, and raise a family. She insisted that Hamilton had been the principal author of the final version of Washington’s Farewell Address, and not James Madison, who had written an early draft of the speech.

In November 1801, their eldest son Philip, was killed in a duel by an associate of Aaron Burr at 19-years-old.

On July 11, 1804, Alexander Hamilton was fatally wounded by Vice President Aaron Burr at the same dueling site where Philip had been killed three years earlier. Hamilton left his family virtually destitute, having spread himself too thin buying on credit. Elizabeth was forced to sell the country house, the Grange, named after Alexander Hamilton's ancestral home in Scotland.

She helped found New York's first private orphanage in 1806.

In 1848, she moved to Washington, D.C. to live with a daughter, and became a celebrated guest at the White House.

Elizabeth Hamilton died on November 9, 1854, at the age of 97 and is buried with her husband in the graveyard of Trinity Church in New York City.

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